Author – Rhea Gadiyar
Bappa is coming again this year with even more fanfare and love! Who doesn’t love a good modak and dancing at the visarjan parade to loud Bollywood songs with your friends! With the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri right around the corner, we have already started deciding on the kind of idol we would want this year, and the theme of our decoration.
What to look out for before you purchase a Ganesh idol?
We come across many campaigns that warn us about the disastrous effects that the idols made of Plaster of Paris (POP) will have on our already dwindling ecosystem. According to Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, there is a massive increase in water pollution after festivals that include idol submerging. POP idols do not dissolve in water easily and they also release various chemicals into the water that raise the acidity of water and make it toxic. This in turn kills our marine life.
Every year, after the festivities are over, videos of broken and cracked parts of the idols as seen on the seashore are circulated. However, the damage has already taken place and there is no going back. By the time the festival comes back the next year, we have conveniently forgotten about the harm that was done.
The material used to make these Ganesh idols do not dissolve in the water and the paint used on them are full of harmful chemicals, especially lead and mercury. This paint then floats on the surface, which makes it impossible for oxygen to permeate inside. The marine life ends up with lead in them which is in turn, consumed by us.
We should all understand it’s high time to make a switch and do something that benefits the environment for a change. Many of us over the years have switched to visarjan (final immersion) where idols are immersed in an artificially created pond in order to reduce water pollution. Despite immersing the idol in the small confined water body, the chemically infused water seeps into to the sea, in turn polluting it.
Are there any eco-friendly alternatives?
Many alternatives have come up in the last few years that range from using natural clay to animal dung to make the foundation for Ganesh idols. People have also come up with ‘backyard visarjan’ where the idol is submerged in a bucket of water to prevent water pollution. Other homes have resorted to reusing a metal idol made of copper or brass that is kept away after the visarjans and used next year.
Cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune are coming up with sustainable alternatives to overcome this pollution left behind by these festivities. Celebrities and Mumbaikars also host clean-up drives where they go to the beach the next day to clean up the rubble that is stranded on the shore. Local colleges and residents also lend a hand in such clean ups.
Recently, idol makers in Hyderabad have come up with the idea of bringing back the tradition of creating idols with cow dung. This technique was used way back in 1900s to create idols for Vinayaka Chaturthi and other festivities revolving around idol worship. This ancient method was sidelined by newer, sturdier idols that were made up of chemical materials that are slowly killing our environment. This year, Hyderabad alone has aimed to produce over 2 lakh idols that will be sold at reasonable prices of INR80-100, depending on the size. The idea is to make these eco-friendly ganesh idols accessible to everyone despite their income group. Already, several idols have been given to farmers and locals for free by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority.
eCoexist from Pune is another group of individuals working towards a more sustainable future. This group works towards making idols out of clay and other natural pigments. They have also switched over from artificial, chemical paints to natural, organic Holi paints. They also have managed to successfully use Beetroot and Spinach to create reds and green for their idols. Another alternative that they found to clay, was making idols from paper. This is done by creating a paper mache dough that is then shaped into the desired idol.
List of places to buy Eco-friendly Ganesha
You can pick up your eco-friendly ganesha idols at various places across India:
Ecoexist Enterprise, Sanjay Park, Lane # 2A, Plot 59 Old Airport Road Yerwada, Pune Tel: 020 2669 8035
Eco-Friendly Ganesha (Mumbai)
Their aim is to build towards a healthier sustainable environment together and help in the idol immersion by using natural materials | Tel: 9892618372 / 8452070822
Tree Ganesha (Mumbai)
Their idols ensure sustainability by planting more trees. Each idol has a plant inside which, after visarjan, will grow into a large green tree | Tel: 8879672071/ 7718096167
They have a wide range of products from clay Ganeshas to tree Ganeshas. They also deliver to your house! Tel: 079934 95718 / 095730 78842
Seed Ganesha (Bangalore)
They have added plant seeds in the clay idol which will germinate once you immerse the idol in water
Clay Ganesh Idol Making Workshops
If you are artistically inclined, you can also join the various clay ganesh idol-making workshops that are happening across the city. Youtube has numerous video tutorials that offer good guidance on how to make a clay ganesha.